Letters And Testimony


Chinese Risks at the General Services Administration

letters and testimony

Chinese Risks at the General Services Administration

July 1, 2024

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Today, I submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate, Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Click here to download a pdf of the testimony.

Chairman Van Hollen, Ranking Member Hagerty, and members of the Subcommittee:

My name is Dan Lips. I am Head of Policy at the Foundation for American Innovation, a think tank focused on promoting innovation, strengthening governance, and advancing national security. I write to respectfully request that the Subcommittee include report language requiring the General Services Administration to promptly implement nonpartisan watchdog recommendations to improve security and achieve fiscal savings and to brief the Subcommittee on implementation plans and timelines.

First, the Subcommittee should require GSA to implement the recommendations issued by the Inspector General in January 2024 to dispose of video conferencing cameras that were not compliant with the Trade Agreements Act (TAA) of 1979 and presented security vulnerabilities.The Inspector General recently reported that GSA “employees misled a contracting officer with egregiously flawed information to acquire 150 Chinese-made, TAA-noncompliant videoconference cameras.” Furthermore, the IG explained that in 2022, security experts issued a warning that these cameras had security vulnerabilities which could be exploited to obtain sensitive information. The IG report explains that GSA agreed with most of the IG’s recommendations but did not agree with the recommendation to “return, or otherwise dispose of, previously purchased TAA-noncompliant cameras.” But the Inspector General reaffirmed the recommendations, citing security and acquisitions concerns. The Subcommittee should require GSA to provide a briefing on its implementation of the Inspector General’s recommendations and to strengthen its internal controls, processes, and acquisitions oversight for future purchases.

Second, the Subcommittee should require GSA to implement, and provide briefings on the status of, open Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations to log cybersecurity incidents. GAO has recommended that GSA “ensure that cybersecurity incidents are tracked and that these tracking logs are appropriately retained and managed.” GAO explains that logging incidents “is invaluable in the detection, investigation, and remediation of cyberthreats,” but as of December 2023, many agencies, including GSA, were not compliant with office of Management and Budget guidelines. Requiring GSA to implement this recommendation would improve federal information security.

Third, the Subcommittee should require GSA to implement open GAO recommendations concerning real property management and to provide quarterly updates to the Subcommittee on the status of implementation. The federal government spends roughly $2 billion managing owned property and $5 billion annually leasing office space from the private sector. GAO first identified real property management as a “high risk” area for the federal government in 2003. A recent review found that much of this office space was largely unused as of 2023. In a 2023 review, GAO reported that 17 of 24 federal agencies “used an estimated average 25 percent or less of their headquarters office capacity”; the agencies with higher use of their office capacity still used less than 50 percent of their space. In other words, federal taxpayers are spending roughly $7 billion on buildings and office space that often have fewer than half of the federal workers assigned to them actually working in them. For example, in 2020, GAO recommended that GSA “coordinate with agencies to ensure that street address information in the public address database is complete and correctly formatted,” since the “lack of reliable data on federal assets is one of the main reasons Federal Real Property Management remains on [GAO’s] High Risk list.” As of July 2024, GAO reports that this recommendation is open and has only been “partially addressed.” The Subcommittee should require regular briefings from GSA and prompt implementation of current open recommendations to improve federal real property management.

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